Can people who pay rent for a parking space be evicted to live in cars?
If you live in a vehicle and pay rent to the operator of a parking lot, are you a tenant?
Do the city laws protecting tenants from evictions during the pandemic apply to you?
What if the parking lot is owned by the State of California?
It’s about to be tested. The California Highway Patrol has informed the city and local advocates that residents of a Caltrans-owned parking lot on Merlin Street will be evicted next week.
These people did not necessarily park illegally. For the past five years, some of them have paid monthly rent for a parking space in the lot, according to a press release from the Coalition on Homelessness. And since the field is almost empty now, they don’t block anyone’s access to anything and cause no problems.
But the private operator of the land, who leased the space, couldn’t afford to keep the land during the pandemic, so Caltrans took it over.
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And now the tenants have to leave.
Extract from the Coalition press release:
“I can’t afford a [house]… But I have a place, ”said Greg Smith, 67, a long-time resident at Merlin St. camp.“ I’ve always had mobile homes before. I rented here for about five years until they declared bankruptcy and gave up the place.
Smith said, “I’d rather live like this than in an ORS. I like to have my own house, I can come in whenever I want, have my things. “
SF has a moratorium on evictions during the pandemic, but this only applies to residential spaces. The law was not designed to deal with this particular situation.
Ora Prochovnick, director of litigation and policy at Eviction Defense Collaborative, says there is a good legal record for residents to stay.
“California law makes it clear that it is illegal to dismiss a tenant without first providing proper written notice and legal process,” Prochovnick said. “The plight of many long-resident Merlin Street property raises strong evidence of legal tenancy, and any doubts must be resolved in favor of residents’ due process rights.”
I called Caltrans for a comment, but no one answered me.